A few months ago, while reviewing one of my friend’s profiles on Facebook, I was surprised to see the amount of discussion that Shari’ah rulings regarding marriage provoke in the West.
My friend, an orthodox Sunni Muslim and avid follower of the Hanbali school, had commented in a picture from 2010 that depicted Malaysian women protesting against the legality of polygamy. The picture, while not shocking for many of us, seemed to bother a number of commentators across the globe. Some people had qualified these women as “ignorant” because of course polygamy is a Muslim man’s default right… while others qualified polygamy as “every Muslim woman’s right.” Not surprisingly for me, the fact that the women depicted in the picture were not Arab seemed (to some of those commenting) to indicate that Southeast Asian Muslim women were somehow misinformed in their challenge to one of the “basic” precepts of Islam.
This story crossed my mind recently as I read an article regarding polygamy that caught my attention. The article, posted in BBC News, discusses polygamy and how Muslim women are “victims” in such an arrangement. The post introduced the topic through Zabina Shahian’s story. Shahian’s marriage has recently become public because of her husband’s political position. UK politician Pervez Choudhry, who never mentioned to Shahian that he already had one wife, has recently been convicted for bigamy. Shahian’s experience is not a happy one by any means. The article mentions the fact that a lot of Muslim women in South Asian communities are victims of polygamy without knowing it. In addition, Shahian explains that there is a deep stigma attached to fighting polygamy in the community or simply saying “no” to it. [Read more...]